Maintenance and Repairs

July 12, 2019 Published by Toronto and Area Chapter - By Sabine Grimes

The Value of Good Design

From the Summer 2019 issue of the CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine.

There was a quote that I stumbled across some time ago, when I read it I chuckled to myself thinking that it was silly that a quote like this even existed:

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Now, I don’t think of this quote as humorous but instead think about the poor quality of some design solutions. In the past 10 years as both my professional self and business have matured, I have taken time to think carefully about the above statement. This piece is of course not specific to condominium refurbishments – it expands far beyond it and is intimately intertwined with the things that we value in life. Good design is not just the product, good design also encompasses the process. Design is the way that we take time to understand the problem or task on hand, digest all the information and finally provide a resolve which is the finished design product.

There is a misconception that design (and having a designer) is frivolous and expensive. As a professional that has (in my past life) existed as the client, I had reviewed proposals and approved invoices for interior design work. It was always necessary to ask myself – did I get what I paid for? Did I find value in the work that I have received? Was it worse or (hopefully) better than expected? Did this service provide value in the product that I am developing?

Any time an entity is retained for their services it’s necessary to know why you need them in the first place so that you can hold them accountable to delivering those services. At the same time, you should always be cognisant of the value that they will be providing. When you go to the car repair to get your tires changed there is a clear, tangible expectation. Consulting services and specifically Interior Design are different as the majority of the services, especially since the most important part doesn’t have a physical and easily quantifiable product associated with it.

It is important to recognize the value of the consulting service and how it relates to the end product. It is also necessary to make sure that you ask yourself the following questions during the design process:

  • Will newly renovated spaces contribute in a positive way to the property value?
  • How is the Interior Design consultation process positively contributing to the conversations that the condo board is having regarding the immanent renovation?
  • How will the newly renovated spaces contribute in a positive way to the property value?

Imagine this scenario – the design process has become lengthy due to multiple requests for changes from the client as well as from value engineering. Through this lengthened design process, a better designed project that will be costing 100k less to execute is created. I would say that the additional design fees that are associated with this are well worthwhile. It is important to measure the amount spent on both the design services as well as the construction costs and see how they are individually benefiting the end product.

How do these two terms differ? How do you know what you’re getting? Every professional calling themselves an Interior Designer professes that you’re getting an exceptional amount of value for their services. But, are you getting a service that is holistic like surgery or superficial like make-up? The term “design” and “aesthetics” are often time confused with one another. But, the reality is they exist in two completely different ways. One could possibly suggest that the appropriate synonym for the word “design” is “open heart surgery” and “aesthetics” would be “make-up”. I would like to think that if the open-heart or any invasive surgery is done properly the blood might flow better to the limbs, the face, make the cheeks rosier and negate the necessity of superficial attention like make-up.

In some ways there is value alone in retaining an Interior Designer as an outside entity that is completely removed from the condo corporation that can act as an objective eye. While there are sometimes talented residents and condo members that are capable of providing the service needed for the building it is always best to have any professional service provided by an outside entity that is independent from internal politics.

Interior Designers can take responsibility for, when asked; code compliance, material selection, can act as a facilitator in the tendering process, auditing contractors, furniture selection, procurement, staging of furniture and accessories. Additionally, Interior Designers can be excellent at finding ways to re-purpose existing spaces to make them function better. Apart from this, Interior Designers often have access to other complimentary professionals such as art consultants, contractors, architects and vendors that are associated with their practice.

Good designers can be seen as “recipe makers”. We propose something that we think you will like and provide you with documentation that will tell you how to get there through design drawings. The contractor is of course responsible for taking these drawings and executing them to make the final product. A good interior design product requires good direction from the client, a competent designer and a competent contractor. A well completed interior design project is not the result of a relay race where everyone has their turn to run, but rather the result of teamwork and excellent communication.

Having a design that is valuable to you also comes back to making sure that you are selecting the right designer for your building. When selecting a designer that is best for your building, I find it always best to use the ‘work backwards’ approach. The designer that is right for your building should:

  • Have an aesthetic that is in line with what you think is suitable for your building (images of their past projects can be seen in a portfolio);
  • Have excellent communication skills so that they can deal with the board and contractor in a constructive way (this can be confirmed through references and through the interview process);
  • Have the ability to offer Interior Design services to the condo board for fees that are in line with the board’s expectations of what is reasonable.

It is important to note that a “one size fits all” approach cannot be used for real estate as each building and condo board are immensely different from each other. Also, it is wise to note that certain designers that might be well suited for areas like Pickering may not be well suited for buildings in Toronto’s downtown core and vice versa.

Interior design can be a way to add value in your real estate investment and can also add value to your everyday life. Seeing that Interior Design has the ability to make your life better and also create value in your real estate investment, investing in the right one for your upcoming renovation seems like a no-brainer. Right?


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